This paper provides a historical account of Ralph Halsted Parker and his work to automate libraries in the early to middle parts of the twentieth century. One of Parker’s motivations to automate stemmed from a desire to professionalize academic librarianship, and this is evident in his administration as library director at the University of Missouri. Importantly, the motivation implies a simple means of judging the critical use of technology: that any substantive technology should be evaluated by how well it benefits librarians. Parker’s additional contributions included consulting and coauthoring, with Frederick G. Kilgour, the report that led to the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), the world’s largest bibliographic database.

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This article first appeared in portal: Libraries and the Academy, v. 14, no. 1 (Jan. 2014): 87-102.

Copyright © 2013 The Johns Hopkins University Press.